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Why I love writing cozy mysteries by Judi Lynn

First of all, I love reading cozy mysteries.  I started out like a lot of others, reading Agatha Christie.  One of my bookshelves is still taken up with lots of her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple novels.  I even read my share of Tommy and Tuppence.

After I ran out of her novels, I discovered Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, Nancy Pickard and Carolyn Hart.  I fell in love with M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth.  I finally ventured into reading a few grittier mysteries—Barbara Hambly’s historical FEVER SEASON and Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST, among others, but when I’m in the mood to read just for pleasure, I turn to a cozy.

I like the feeling of a small world that they create—a small town, a village, a hamlet—a place where people know one another.   I also like tripping over dead bodies instead of vividly watching the murder as it happens.  I appreciate shock value occasionally.  I just finished reading J.D. Robb’s first gritty futuristic mystery, NAKED IN DEATH, and being a voyeur can be fun sometimes.  But again, when I want to curl on the couch and relax, I’d rather have all the gory details off-stage. Continue reading “Why I love writing cozy mysteries by Judi Lynn”

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Trash or Treasure by Carlene O’Connor

I grew up in Ohio, in a family of four. My grandparents on both sides also lived in Ohio and it was about a four-hour drive (felt like forever to us) in either direction to visit them. These long drives were before iPods and iPads and DVD players in cars. My father didn’t even like to play music. It was either boring news, silence, or arguments. My sister and I were left with books, playing I Spy, or SEE ABOVE: (Arguments). On the trip to my father’s parents in Ashtabula Ohio, there were two things we looked forward to on the ride. One was McDonald’s half-way through, (double cheeseburger, large fries, vanilla shake) and the other was just before we turned on the road to my grandparents’ house. It was a large white barn set off the road with a giant sign: TRASH OR TREASURES.

Trash or Treasures was basically a large flea market in a barn. Filled with dusty shelves and old items, for me it was truly like being on an adventure in search of treasure. I loved getting lost in the dark over-sized barn, searching the shelves for a bit of magic, something that sparked or spoke to me, pawing through glass bottles, and door knobs, and old photographs of strangers. Continue reading “Trash or Treasure by Carlene O’Connor”

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Things to Try this Summer by Carlene O’Connor

Wild Spy

 Spend the day at the zoo. Pretend you can secretly talk to one species of animal. The first animal you make direct eye contact with– that’s the one you can secretly talk to. Imagine you’re there to give them a message– and get one back from them. Imagine. Everyone else is just there to see the giraffes and eat greasy food. You are on a mission. I can’t wait to see what wisdom the wild animals have for me today.

Star Gazing

 I’ve always wanted to own a telescope. I’ve lived in too many cities to make it worth it, unless I want to be one of those creepy people spying into condo windows. Although that does sound fascinating for a writer, it’s still a bridge too far. So this summer I’m going to have to make it somewhere with open, clear skies, and do some star gazing. It’s good for the soul. Continue reading “Things to Try this Summer by Carlene O’Connor”

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My Inspirations by Judi Lynn

My friends and family know that I’m a writer, and they know how much I love mysteries.  We’ve taken a small bedroom at the back of our house and turned it into an office for me, and we lined it with bookshelves.  The shelves aren’t just crammed with books, but I showcase some of the wonderful gifts I’ve been given that tie into my writing, too.

I love Agatha Christie, so my husband bought me a clever teapot that looks like a writer’s desk.  The piece of paper in the typewriter has words “typed” on it from one of Christie’s novels.  The pages tossed in the wastebasket are filled with her words, too.  A handgun lies on manuscript pages.  Here’s what it looks like:


My sisters bought me a typewriter, too, with little mice scampering across the keys. Continue reading “My Inspirations by Judi Lynn”

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Things I Wrote by Carlene O’Connor

Writers write. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? My first short story was written when I was four-years-old. I used to think first drafts were all you had to write, that was it! Boy did I have a lot to learn. It’s probably why my early attempts didn’t go anywhere. Octavia Butler says: “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff. And then gradually, you get better at it. That’s why I say the most valuable trait is persistence.”

I totally agree!!!

Now that I’ve been writing for twelve years and teaching for the past six of those years, boy do I know that’s true. The more you write, the better you get. And after that first draft? You rewrite it. Usually five to ten drafts. Neil Simon in Neil Simon Rewrites really opened my eyes to rewriting. So did Jerry Cleaver in Immediate Fiction. It was his course that helped me revise my first novel, and it’s his course that I now own and teach in Chicago, with an online component soon to come. (

Here’s another tip: The less you worry, the better you write. Here is just a snippet of things I wrote before (and one after) becoming published:

Things I wrote before writing my first novel:

The Boy and the Mouse — Age 4 — Short story

First lines:        “Oh boy,” said the boy. “A mouse.”

“Oh boy,” said the mouse. “A boy.” Continue reading “Things I Wrote by Carlene O’Connor”

Posted in Cooking, Crafts, Creativity, Home

Baking Shows Unleashed My Inner Cake Boss by Ellery Adams

I love baking shows. There’s something so satisfying about having dinner and then settling down on the sofa to watch professional or amateur chefs battle it out on Chopped, The Great British Bake Off, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, Master Chef, Cupcake Wars, and Worst Cooks in America.

I remember the first time I tried to make one of Mary Berry’s cakes. I’d seen an episode of The Great British Bake Off featuring Mary’s Victoria Sandwich, and after reading countless literary references to the Victoria Sandwich and Victoria Sponge, I was dying to try my hand at one.

I made the cake. It was tasty. When I made it for the second time, I put my own spin on it. I used lemon cake because I thought it would go nicely with the raspberry jam. After that, I used homemade strawberry buttercream instead of jam. I figured that it was my duty as an American to tinker with a traditional British dessert (insert wink).

Next, I focused on Paul Hollywood’s bread. Using his recipes meant learning to translate grams into ounces, the meaning of strong flour, and learning that bicarbonate of soda is baking soda and that caster sugar is granulated sugar.  I began baking bread. It filled the house with such incredible aromas that I thought I’d never stop.

I didn’t exactly stop, but I was sidetracked by another show. This time, it was Nailed It! After my family watched the first episode, my daughter turned to me and said, “Let’s make everything they make.” I thought this was a crazy and wonderful idea.

The two of us started with the pigs in the hot tub cake and continued baking every weekend afterward. We gave away all the cakes and received just as much joy out of sharing the love and the sugar as we did baking together.

Continue reading “Baking Shows Unleashed My Inner Cake Boss by Ellery Adams”

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Writing With Paw-some Friends by Krista Davis

One of the luxuries of being a writer is the ability to work from home. I have to admit that the Federal Express guy has caught me in my jammies before. And makeup? Nope. Not unless I’m going somewhere.

But the ones who really make the most of it are my cats and dogs. They assume that all humans stay home. And when I don’t pay attention to them because I’m writing, they test me. Each of them has a mission.

This is Baron, aka Sugar Bear. Baron was rescued from dog jail by Angels of Assisi. I’m so glad that someone recognized what a wonderful fellow he is. Baron thinks it’s his responsibility to get me outside and exercising. Every day he takes me for a walk, whether I want to go or not. His hobby is making sure I share all my food with him so that I don’t eat too much.

His youngest sister, TwinkleBelle, aka Twinkie, aka Tubby Twinkie, shares Baron’s interest in food. She’s so afraid I won’t feed them that she eats everyone’s food. After all, bowls that aren’t empty might not be refilled. Twinkie is on a diet, which does not make her happy. Did I mention that she’s a talker? Oh my, does she talk when she thinks she should be fed! Twinkie was rescued from a barn when she was only two weeks old! Her eyes weren’t open and they’re a little bit scarred. Fortunately, she can see very well. Continue reading “Writing With Paw-some Friends by Krista Davis”

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7 Questions With Diane C. McPhail

Not long ago, I clicked on my daily LitHub post and began my usual scroll down the rich offerings there. Among them I found a link to Seven Questions asked of five vibrant writers. For the first six questions the answers had to be given in a word or two, at most a simple phrase. Only the seventh allowed for complete sentences. I was intrigued by these writers’ answers.

I wondered how I might answer these questions that go straight to the core of what we as writers are doing. I took on the exercise. Some of my answers surprised me. Some elicited precision in my view of my writing. So I decided to share this with you, with due acknowledgement to LitHub.

7 Questions: no wrong answers. Incomplete except for #7 (aren’t all answers incomplete?) Continue reading “7 Questions With Diane C. McPhail”

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Family Traditions by Judi Lynn

Once a year, in the spring, I like to invite my two sisters and my cousin to my house for a tea.  When our daughters were little, we took them to Chicago and went to the Drake hotel for an afternoon tea.  We dressed up.  A woman played a harp as the waiter brought us tiers of scones, finger sandwiches, and fancy little desserts.  The girls still talk about it.

My sisters were jealous.  There was an old, brick house downtown that served afternoon teas, and I went with them.  The food was fancy and delicious, but nothing like the tea at the Drake.  The tea house finally closed, and later, Diane Mott Davidson came to town, and the restaurant, Joseph Decuis, hosted a tea for her to promote her book.  It was during the day, and my sisters couldn’t get off work, so a friend of mine and I went to it.  It was extravagant and wonderful.   Diane Mott Davidson spoke, and she was a joy to hear.  It was the first time in my life I ever tasted a macaron—the French filled cookie made with almond flour.  I still crave them. Continue reading “Family Traditions by Judi Lynn”

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Darkness Returns Blog By Alexandra Ivy

I was recently asked by a young reader why I wanted to write about vampires. The words were polite, but the meaning was clear…why would an old lady (I hastily add that I’m not yet in my dotage) be interested in the paranormal world?  At first, I was stumped. Why wouldn’t I write about vampires? Then I realized that she didn’t have a clue that vampires and zombies and things that go bump in the night have been around since cavemen sat around the fire to tell ghost stories.

Personally, I think that those of us who are sliding through middle age were privileged to have spent our childhood inundated with the most wonderful plethora of horror, Sci-Fi, and campy craziness. I fell in love with the paranormal when I was a very young girl. I never missed an episode of Dark Shadows and my Saturday afternoons were devoted to Sci-Fi flicks that were as cheesy as they were fun. How could you not love Night of the Lepus?  Killer bunnies…always a classic.  Even my Saturday morning cartoons were devoted to Scooby Doo chasing bad-guys disguised as ghosts. Continue reading “Darkness Returns Blog By Alexandra Ivy”